It’s possible to speak about Art Blakey as one of jazz’s monumental figures without mentioning the drums. You might talk about how few artists have represented a record label with the kind of ambassadorship that defined Blakey’s relationship with Blue Note. Although he recorded for many labels in his career, Blakey steered some of Blue Note’s finest bands and contributed a stack of its best-loved recordings as a leader and sideman. In the process, he designed the label’s first signature sound, the more patient, blues-soaked bop derivation called hard bop. ‘The Freedom Rider’ captures what was perhaps Blakey’s greatest band of Messengers on the cusp of their joint and separate greatness, while also showcasing his finest drum solo in the title track. An undervalued LP in his catalog, this record is an essential release in the story of Blue Note and Blakey himself.